The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the chairman of the panel’s Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere traveled across the border to Tecate, Mexico, over the weekend to visit with Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi.
The reservist who served two combat tours in Afghanistan was arrested at the San Ysidro border crossing the night of March 31 and is currently being held in the El Hongo II prison in Tecate, Mexico, for bringing guns into the country. Tahmooressi reportedly had a rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun, a .45-caliber pistol and more than 400 rounds of ammunition in his truck.
“The Committee has been following Sgt. Tahmooressi’s case quite closely. I found him to be in good spirits, but this visit confirmed my belief that Sgt. Tahmooressi, after serving two honorable tours in Afghanistan and now suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, needs to come home,” said Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.).
“While I remain respectful of Mexico’s laws, today after I thanked him for his dedicated service, I assured Sgt. Tahmooressi that I will continue working to secure his release so that he can begin needed treatment for his PTSD,” Royce added.
He recently appealed directly to Mexico’s foreign secretary, Dr. Jose Antonio Meade Kuribeña, urging a quick resolution to the case.
Salmon first visited Tahmooressi on May 31.
“After visiting with Sergeant Tahmooressi for the second time in two weeks, I remain confident that his situation is improving and will end with his release in the near future. His spirits remain upbeat and he has full confidence in his new attorney,” Salmon said after the weekend visit. “I once again expressed my heartfelt gratitude to Sgt. Tahmooressi for his military service, and relayed to him the overwhelming support he is receiving from millions across America.”
“It remains a top priority that Sgt. Tahmooressi return to the U.S. to receive treatment for the PTSD he suffered while serving in Afghanistan. I ensured him that I will continue to do everything in my power to make sure his case is heard quickly and fairly.”
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), Royce’s predecessor at the helm of the committee, said Tahmooressi simply took “a wrong turn into the twilight zone.”
It was late at night when he was on Interstate 5 south, which takes you directly into the border checkpoint lanes unless you take the last exit in the U.S. to Camino de la Plaza, an area with duty-free shops and parking lots where visitors to Tijuana often park and walk across the border. Signs along I-5 warn that guns are illegal in Mexico, and yellow signage warns of the last exit to remain in the U.S.
“He has been chained. He has been treated terribly. He’s had some contact with the consulate. But, what about the higher-ups?” Ros-Lehtinen told Fox on Friday. “Well, I personally spoke to Vice President Biden about this case. He was not completely up-to-speed on it. I explained it to him. Handed him a letter. He said he’s going to look into it. This was now 8 days ago. What has he done? Well, the vice president today had a working lunch with the minister, the interior minister of Mexico. Did he bring up the case of this Marine hero? Also, the president of the United States spoke to the president of Mexico [Enrique] Peña Nieto. Didn’t we just ask about it? No, demand that he be freed immediately.”
“We are beyond the status quo of this Marine. We are in demanding that he be released immediately… He has suffered enough.”
Ros-Lehtinen noted that Mexican officials have made wrong turns into U.S. territory before, and “oh my golly we practically put the rose pedals before their feet; we let them go back with their guns and it’s no problem.”
She also stressed that the Mexican justice system is under the thumb of drug cartels, and therefore a U.S. Marine can’t be expected to get a fair shake under the law.
“It is not impartial — they see Marines especially as our heroes, as the enemies of the Mexican people. People who are trying to deport them back to their country. So, it’s not a level playing field,” Ros-Lehtinen added.
“But how sad that it’s almost like a bake sale at the school level when we have all these big forces working against you. The president should be advocating for his release. This shouldn’t be up to the moms to plead with elected officials to help them — it’s pathetic.”
Tahmooressi supporters have been using the hashtag #BringBackOurMarine on Twitter to try to rally grassroots support.
Hillary Clinton told Fox last week that if she were in charge “I can tell you what I would be doing, burning up the telephone wires, sending, you know, envoys not just our ambassador, but others coming in, talking to the highest level Mexican officials, making it clear that this is really important to us.”
“You know, we work with our counterparts, our friends in Mexico on a lot of issues. Obviously, it’s something that is in our interest to do it as it is in theirs. When this kind of action happens and somebody who as you say made an accident turn who is serving our country ends up in a prison, that is just unacceptable,” Clinton said.
“…I certainly expect everything is being done that can be done, but maybe we need to raise the decibels a little bit more.”